Tech Talk Live returned on Monday night for this season’s second show. Virginia Tech football head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster addressed the Hokies’ unofficial depth chart released on Monday, as well as West Virginia’s unique defense. Here are the highlights.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster
Thoughts on defensive line and depth (or lack thereof)
“You know, I think we’ve made some big improvements from spring practice, and that was what we talked about from the end of spring going into summer. Last year’s team really made its biggest jumps, leaps and bounds from the spring game to the start of the season. We needed to do the same thing with this group, particularly up front. I do like our starting group. I think we’ve improved ourselves at the end position. I really like Emmanuel Belmar, I like what he’s done. I like Houshun Gaines, he’s had a great summer and needed to, but has had a great summer. Raymon Minor can do some things, he’s very athletic. He’s bounced around at some different positions, but I think he’s found a home, I know he has for us, and can do some things. Still, my question mark and concern is defensive tackle, though I do think we’ve really improved there. Jarrod Hewiitt has had a great summer and has had a great camp. He’s been a little under the weather here the last couple days and he’s lost a little weight, which is probably okay from that standpoint. He’s a guy that’s physical, and probably was a little overweight in the spring, but worked really hard to trim himself down and kind of looked like the guy that we recruited.
There’s been a battle at that other spot, and the guy that’s really stepped up is Jimmie Taylor. I know he’s a little bit undersized, but he plays for us and he’s rugged, he chases the ball and plays extremely hard. Again, you have two guys returning. Ricky Walker started probably half of the season last year with Nigel (Williams) being out, but a guy like Tim Settle, everyone knows about Tim, but he only played about 20-25 plays a game, at most, last season. Now, his role is going to be amped up. We’re counting on him to play more in that 45-55 play range, and he’s worked really hard to be in the type of shape it takes to play not just hard, but hard for that amount of reps. So, those are some question marks that we have right now, as far as some of the depth. I like where we are, but there’s just a lot of inexperience. Those guys are going to get tested here quick on Sunday night. That’s my biggest concern. We’re a little thin at corner, even though that’s one of our strengths with those three guys — Brandon (Facyson), Adonis (Alexander) and Greg (Stroman) coming back. We’re still a little thin at that spot, but across the board, I really like where our safeties are and I really like where our linebackers are, but those are my concerns.”
Status of Brandon Facyson and emergence of Bryce Watts
“Number one, Brandon had his cast removed (Sunday) I think and he’s coming back today. He’s ready to roll. He’s been given the okay and he’s done everything, except that we’ve kept him out of the big contact situations. He’s been in a lot of battles, and I feel good about where his head is. Now, he’s just got to get out and we’ll test him a little bit with some tackling drills and things of that nature. I like where he is.
Bryce Watts is a kid, highly-recruited guy, that we feel very strongly about. He’s going to continue to get better. He works hard. It’s important to him. Is he ready right now, probably not, but will he be in a couple weeks? That’s really whereas we’re moving forward, I really hope he’s going to be ready and be where we want him to be, in about 3-5 weeks, being a guy that I trust and depend on, and will execute and play for us.”
Challenges from the West Virginia offense
“They’re also bringing in a new coordinator. I’ve heard Dana (Holgorsen) has turned everything over to Jake Spavital, who was at Cal most recently, and also had some runs at Texas A&M. I’ve heard that he’s turned everything over to him. Now we’ve studied Cal and obviously West Virginia. They both come from the same tree, the Mike Leach tree, so their concepts, particularly in the passing game, are identical. Jake is a little bit more up-tempo, it reminds me a little bit more of Syracuse, as far as wanting to spread the field a little bit wider, do some different things, and attacking you that way. We went back and looked at Will (Grier) at Florida, a very talented guy, has a live arm. I’m sure he’s going to be excited to play again, but it’s not going to be his first time on this kind of stage. I’m sure they’re looking to him to be in control, calm, but we’ve looked at him.
Today was the first time we got a true depth chart on them. They remind me of us a lot offensively, with the experience. You have a new quarterback, they do have some running backs. They’ve got quite a few guys who have played a bit, but not a lot of returning starters. Those were guys that when we looked at the film and we studied them, were guys who made impacts and were productive players for them. They’re like us, the cupboard’s not bare. They’ve got some really talented guys, but there are several guys that are going to be playing a significant role for the first time, but a very talented team, a very wide-open offensive team. They put points on the board with everybody they’ve played, some of them traditionally dynamic defensive football programs. Our job, hopefully is to not allow them to do that this Sunday night.”
Thoughts and expectations from Reggie Floyd and Devon Hunter
“Reggie’s had a really good camp. That position is a critical position for us. Last year we played really well because our rover played really well in Terrell Edmunds. I’ll say this, our safeties and our nickel, those three guys are a lot of our free hitters, and those are guys that can make plays in space and need to make plays in space. That’s still what we need from that spot and Reggie’s done that, and for the most part he’s done it pretty consistently. Devon probably didn’t come in as early as some of the other guys. Not that he’s behind, he did have an injury where he missed a couple of scrimmages, but when he did come out the first time, he played like a freshman. Then you saw a big improvement from week one to week two. I like what he’s all about and where he’s going. He’s going to be a dynamic player for us.
The other guy that we’ve really worked there a bit is Divine Deablo. Obviously, we’re always trying to get our best 11 on the field and I really like what Divine has done. He’s a long, athletic guy that has great range and has been a good tackler. What that means is, we could put our best 11 on the field, Terrell (Edmunds) could move back at times to our rover spot, potentially. Just like at defensive end and defensive tackle, we could move Vinny Mihota inside a little bit at times. We feel good enough with some guys at end where we could do that if we needed to. There’s a couple guys at end that we could roll around at a couple different spots that give us the athletic ability number one, but what we need to be successful.”
Head coach Justin Fuente
Comfort level with wide receivers, young players playing early
“Yeah, they all say, ‘Yeah coach, I want to play,’ then they get in the middle of it and they realize how difficult it really is. My message is it’s not good enough just to play. We have a standard here that we’ve got to play well. We’ve got to play consistently. I tell our kids all the time, ‘Every day in practice, you have an opportunity to build trust. Coaches play people that they trust, and you have a chance every day at practice to either build up that trust, or take that trust away through your actions and how you prepare and practice,’ and we’re trying to continue to get as many guys as we feel that way about. It doesn’t mean guys are bad guys or good guys, it just means that it takes a diligent, disciplined approach. Obviously we feel good about Cam (Phillips), I’m glad James Clark is here. He’s a guy who was an Ohio State transfer that has some game experience, is a little bit older, he’s more physically developed than maybe some of our younger players. CJ Carroll is a guy that played really well for us as the season went along last year, and was slowed a little bit by a foot injury, but he’s back and feeling good. Then we’ve got some young guys in Eric Kumah and Sean Savoy, Hezekiah Grimsley, those are two true-freshmen that are going to get in there. It’s a new world.
Now the good thing is that they get to go against some of the best defensive backs in the country on a daily basis, so they’ll be battle-tested by the time the game rolls around.”
Expectations for James Clark and Greg Stroman as returners, risk and reward with both
“I think that’s certainly part of it with Greg. We want to make sure we handle him the right way, in terms of punt returning and kickoff returning, and still be productive at corner, much in the same way we try and handle all of our guys that are every down players. Tim Settle is a perfect example. He’s been a fantastic special teams player, you don’t usually think of defensive linemen as being good special teams players, but he’s on the shield on punt, he’s on both field goal unit and field goal block, and has been instrumental on kickoff return. He’s been really, really good, so we try and manage some of those guys to make sure that we can keep them fresh. There’s also that in the first couple games, it’s hard to get into game shape, with the anxiety that comes with playing the game for real, I think that contributes to that. After you get a couple of games under your belt, that goes away a little bit. But we’ll do a good job of handling Greg. He’ll still get some touches and do that kind of stuff, but we’ll make sure if we’ve got capable backups, we spread the wealth, so to speak.”
Generic breakdown of West Virginia’s 3-3-5 defense
“Most of your odd-front defenses have three-down linemen, and play with four linebackers. It’s called a 3-4. This one plays with a 3-3, so there’s three-down linemen and three stacked linebackers, and in their base alignment, their linebackers are stacked pretty much right behind the three defensive linemen. They play a five-defensive back secondary, much in the same way that we play a five-defensive back secondary most of the time with Mook (Reynolds) in the alley over there, some people call it the nickel or the whip, or whatever you want to call it. So their configuration in the backend is somewhat similar, personnel-wise, to what we face every day, it’s just their inner core, their front six guys are configurated different. Ours at Virginia Tech is four down linemen and two linebackers, and there’s is three down linemen and three linebackers. It’s relatively uncommon, there’s just not a lot of people that do it. It’s a good defense, it’s sound. There are a lot of really good schemes. The key is being able to adjust whatever it is you’re doing to whatever it is you’re getting, and they can do that. They’re well-versed in this. It’s certainly not, by any means, a gimmicky defense. It is sound, and they know their adjustments and they go play hard.”
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